Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Andy gets Jammy

Andy totally scored at [DELETED]* last night and found that fantastic bottle of red that we had at Heartland for only $7.99!! We are so going in on a case together. Here's what she had to say:

There is something about an old vine bottle of wine that is nearly guaranteed to be sultry. When you find 50 year old vines for under $10, it seems too good to be true. Viña Alarba is dense and smooth. It has a mysteriousness about it that can only be from the extracted, jammy, old vine juice. The sultry flavor of minerals peak through on the mid-palate. Let'um shop the cheap California rack, that means there will be more Viña Alarba for us. We've got 50 year old vines at the price of a mass produced white zin; being "in-the-know" couldn't be any better.

We've decided that we aren't telling you where because we're going to go clean them out before y'all git yer grubby hands all over our vino. But if you find it for yourself, buy lots. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Valuable Lesson Learned

Who came to party?

I have come to sad understanding of what it's like not working with Laura aka J.Lo anymore. It's so friggin boring around there I can't stand it! I don't have anybody to chat with, gossip to or make snort at her computer monitor. Sigh.
Luckily, I still got this guy. (note the creepy extra from Fox's Alien Nation behind him.) Jim aka Jimmy K aka Kro Krocak.
So, Jim asked me if I was doing anything after work last Friday. Well, lo and behold, I was not! And wasn't it about time that we got together to discuss the serious financial issues that face us as a company and our role as producers for said company? Yeah, well, didn't so much get around to that, but we did get a few rounds in on the company penny. (Via Jim. Thank you Jim!)
So, of course I called up Laura. Luckily, she was down, too. Jimmy said he's got this buddy who just moved into town and he'd probably love a little happy hour. In his honor, I suggested Mortons figuring that a guy who just moved here from Iowa would appreciate a little downtown sophistication. Stupid, stupid girl.
We got a few appetizers, the biggest shrimp this side of a Bubba Gump mascot and really tangy cocktail sauce studded with capers. We also had the mini petite filet sandwiches which were not only delicious, but also only $4 at happy hour. The steamy, creamy crab dip actually had huge hunks of tender, sweet meat cradled in molten cheese and crust. It was all so good! And you'd think that would enough food, but no. Mini burgers were also ordered. They were really mini, the food equivalent of a Mini Cooper. Adorable! Not the tastiest, but super, duper cutie wooty pie!
I had begun the evening with a really unremarkable Zinfandel so decided to follow it up with a Hendricks martini. You know, a wise man once said that you should never start off a night with a martini. Caution, thrown, wind, blowing, PFAHHH!! Whaddouno, anyway?
Hoo boy. So, Jim's buddy showed up and he seemed like a nice enough guy. For some reason I remember him as having a Stewie Griffin-esque head, but I suspect that was more the martini. I soldiered on after swilling down my martini in three short glugs and ordered Mt.Gay rum and Cokes, which were tossed back seemingly one after another.
This would be the point in the classic bit where I would say, Bartender! There's no booze in these things! When in fact they were more beige in color and than Carmel. Oh, yeah, there was plenty booze. Enough to loosen up my big, fat mouth.
It was so HARD not to say anything!! Jim's friend is, I am certain, a lovely person of the sort who calls his Grandma every Sunday to check in on her and teaches kittens to knit mittens, but dear lord help me, did he irritate the piss out of me!!
Here's what I learned about him: He works for a company that sells commercial real estate. He used to work at Williams in Uptown, which he's super stoked to get back to now that he's living in the city. He thinks Drink is an awesome place to... well, yeah. And he has not read a book in 7 years.
What's so bad about that? Nothing!! Especially if his Nana says so. But seriously Williams? My God in heaven! You know, I actually witnessed someone puke in the peanut bar and the bartender still served him another beer? And I don't mean he beat a hasty retreat to the bathroom, I mean ON THE FLOOR while sitting at THE BAR!! And he still got served. Williams is an enclave for all sorts of personality types that I generally don't get along with. And that's fine! I'm sure they wouldn't feel to keen on getting piss drunk at the CC and playing obscure, live and indiscernible Replacements songs, either.
And I should do my best to live and let live about the reading thing. Lots of people don't read much. A lot of people find reading reminiscent of difficult days in college or have deep psychological scarring from the Pokey Little Puppy. I just happen to believe that it's a healthy thing to do for a thinking adult. You should exercise that gray matter Dude!
And all of that is just a big it's not you it's me. Let's cut through the bullshit. I have never in my life come so closely to clocking someone with a cocktail shaker than when he likened my writing to being a feeble-minded Ibsen character.
The conversation went like this:
"Well, I really like reading. I'm kind of a writer." - me
(Shameless plug.)
"Yeah, Joy's writes a pretty funny blog." - Jim
"Oh, so you're like into all that fiction, romance novel stuff."


I'll wait a moment while that sinks in.

WHAT?! Jumpin' Jedediah on a Pinto bean, how does one get to that conclusion?
We had to leave before the violence began. I grabbed Laura and went to the loo. I am not usually a fan of tandem peeing, but I needed back up. Someone to talk me off of the edge. Someone who would at the very least, consider being a character witness at the trial.
She was with me. He was painful to endure. We would have to leave and have to leave soon. And, of course, she's also had the mean gin, so she knew what a colossal effort I was making by not being snarky, sarcastic, caustic and rude. I live for those things! It's my bread and butter! I'm not funny when I'm not mean or somewhat angry about something. Like the opposite of the Incredible Hulk. You would like me when I'm nicey.
I would rather be a bodice ripper writer than illiterate, though. Actually, I hear that you can make good money writing those things. Maybe the benighted boy is onto something.

Kid Sister

I was so good about keeping up on posting last week that I really wanted to get you something entertaining to read when you probably should be working, but I haven't been out enough this week to find anything great.
So, I thought I'd tell you a little bit more about me and my family, more specifically my sister. This is her boozing it up at my wedding. (And that's Eric next to her.)
So, Julie is my one and only sibling so it gives us a special bond. No one else on Earth knows all that we've been through good and bad. We can speak in our own odd twin speak hodge podge of movie quotes and goofs on other family members. Example, she's the only one who knows why I yell in my best old lady voice, into the phone, "JULIE?" whenever she answers a call from me.
She's great. And funny. We have so much fun together, so I'm really looking forward to having her at my house this weekend. The problem is her diet. We both started out life as particularly picky eaters. I was probably even worse because I have never been a fan of Kraft Mac n Cheese. What kid doesn't swoon for a yellow pile of flavor goo? While I've definitly branched out, she's still stuck in odd ruts. Julie appears to have killed off every taste bud in her mouth, except for the one that detects sour. A regular days food will consist of grapefruit, pickles and salad dressing. Not on a salad, mind you, just the dressing. And only her homemade (damn good) Lawry's extra vinegary dressing.
So, I'm contemplating what to do with her. On the one hand, I did get a jumbo jar of pickles in anticipation. On the other... I feel like I should do something drastic. Drizzle liquid chocolate down her throat when she's sleeping. Or maybe sling shot a truffle oil touched crostini at her. When she's suprised. Hm. Boink her on the head with a Serrano ham?
Of course, I did get her violently ill by forcefeeding her wretched Paella from Chino Latino that one time. Maybe I should leave her alone? What kind of big sister would I be if I did that?
Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hug me! Hold me! Love me! Feed me!
I hope everyone enjoyed a lovely evening that wasn't at a restaurant covered in long stemmed red roses. Romance is waking up by doing a face plant in your lover's sweaty pit and being able to laugh trhough the gagging. And good friends are the kind that never let you forget about that laughing 'til a chicken wing came out your nose incident.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's What I Crave

Do you ever go so long without eating something that once you get a craving you are so swept up into the depths of this craving that you not only want and need to eat that food, but you need the absolute perfect version of the object of your desire?

The happens to me every couple of months and when it strikes, it's nearly debilitating. I call it the Craving Conundrum. Occasionally, it's the perfect slice of pepperoni pizza or other times it's a batch of perfectly crisp, beer battered onion rings, but when it usually hits, it's for a burger. I've spent entire weekends driving and roaming and waiting in fear of not getting the perfect burger. And there are so many options!! There's the Groveland Tap where you can get a killer Cajun Lucy stuffed with jalapenos and cheese. That's good, but a Lucy is not a regular burger, she's too tarted up. There are the burgers and malts at the Convention. An Edina classic and the malts can't be beat, but the burger... it's just not quite there. It's a damn good burger, don't get me wrong, but when the Craving Conundrum hits, I need the granddaddy of all burgers. I'm looking for perfection. I'm looking for the Anchor Bar, which can be tough as it's located at the end of the strip in Superior, Wisconsin.

You ever been to Superior, or Soup town as we call it? Oh, if you missed the chance in your 20's you really haven't lived, brother! It's a desolate strip of land where bars sprout up more often than an Evangelical sex scandal. It's a hard town. Hard to make a decent living and hard to maintain any healthy living. What was once a bustling town from the shipyards and immigrants has wheezed to a strung out college town with a few hard working souls hanging on. While Duluth went out and got herself pretty for the tourism industry, Superior stayed behind. Superior is Ezmeralda to Duluth's Cinderella. But how can you not have a little place in your heart for a place where happiness is hard won? Or cheaply bought, as the case may be. I don't think I've ever spent more than $2.75 for a drink in the whole city.

And while my liver has swollen to capacity, my visits to Superior have grown fewer and farther between. That was until the Craving Conundrum hit in the middle of last Saturday afternoon. Buuuurrrgger. Buuurrrggeerrrr! CHEEESEEEE BUUURRRGER!!! "Hey, let's go to the Anchor!" I chirped to my husband at the wheel. That man does love a road trip.

Now, a word about the atmosphere (if I haven't already created enough.) The Anchor is not the sort of place you go to in your Sunday best. No. It's also not the place to go if you're feeling like a little vino or a martooni. You're going to get beer and you're going to like it. It's going to be flat, but cold. The light will be so dim your eyes will have to adjust even if you're arriving after dark. And you will never, ever be able to entirely take in all of the crap that is hanging on these walls. If you're lucky, you'll be able to land a seat at that table with barber chairs for seats.

Really, it's worth the trip just to see this place and what you'll spend on gas, you'll save on booze and food. Now, this burger.... Ooohhhhh, yeah..... this burger is an absolute vision in stark beauty. You get grilled to perfection, fresh ground beef cooked on a grill that's seen more action than Anna Nicole Smith got in her whole lifetime. The char, the flavor that your lunch will pick up from this ancient grease-top is total food alchemy. That thar is black gold. The bun is just a simple bakery bun grilled up for a couple of minutes and that's it, unless you ask for more. The basic burger is an astounding $2.25. No shit. But wait, there's more!! Spring for a couple of extra pennies and there's no end to what you can get! My mom's favorite is the Blue Cheese burger. Matt got the bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions. And thank you, Jesus, there's real bacon on here! Real, chewy, hearty bacon!! I got the good ol' cheeseburger (because, hey, I'm in Wisconsin.) Ohhhhh... it was heaven. The fries are equally amazing; actual cut and fried real potatoes. Not some frozen shit in a bag off a truck (CHATTERBOX!) Oooo.... so goood. I got a really damn good Bloody Mary, too! Just as straight forward and delicious as everything else we'd encountered there. I even slugged down my flat, beer chaser while gazing around, just trying to look at everything. Every inch of wall and ceiling space is adorned with some sort of ocean or fishing paraphernalia. I just imagine what a refuge this place must be for all the guys working on the tacconite ships.

The music was loud and the waitresses were astonishingly kind. (Usually, the people working in a gruff Al's breakfast kind of way, except I think they mean to be mean.) The girl working the grill had to be a sweetie-pie college student, and here she is with all these roughneck regulars. I envy her for the stories she'll cull from this experience. That's enough to last for a lifetime of experience.

My craving was so satisfied and yet I still wanted to order five more, just because it's that effing good. The minute the last bite is gone and the final fry is dunked in ketchup and disappears, you wish you could do it all over again. I wished I was hungry just so I could get that blissful fix. Matt turned to me and said, "I've never had a burger make me hungrier before." I couldn't have said it better myself. So, I slipped into my cheap booze to wait for her to work that magic and make me another.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Are You High Claree?

I don't get it. I really don't. What's wrong with me? I must have either been having an acid flashback or I liked the St. Paul Chatterbox pub despite all evidence to the contrary. It'd be easy to say it was the drugs. The entire music play list was swiped directly from my college years. Apparently they don't play anything from before or after 1995-2000. Seriously, it was all Black Hole Sun this and Social Distortion that. The Dead Milkman delivered while the Red Hot Chilli Peppers spiced things up. And all of this is impossible to ignore because it's at peak dorm room decibel. My companions and I could barely hear one another. There were so many TVs blaring and Ninetendos bleeping (and booping depending on how Mario and Luigi were faring) that I felt like a kid on the verge of a Pokemon-induced epilepsy fit. There's just so much going on.
While I was waiting for my people the waitress never came over to ask if I wanted anything to drink. That was okay, because I had MTV and the Simpson's going on two of the six TVs. I could barely stop staring long enough to look at the menu anyway. I mean, there's a TV right there. I've got to watch it!
My people finally did show up and we were able to flag down one the waitresses, but for the rest of the night I'd be hard pressed to call anyone working there a "server." They did bring us stuff... eventually.
Oh, and the food! Seriously, if I had been high and I did have the munchies this place would totally be da bomb, yo! But I wasn't. In fact, I was sadly sober considering the puny little wine glasses and the slow delivery of said glasses. So the food was a rollicking disappointment. Matt ordered the "loaded" fries, which were, in fact, not loaded with anything. Upon further reflection the "loaded" was probably a joke on the beer used to make the "fondue" that comes with them, but it was missed by all of us. What do you think when you envision a loaded fry? Not a hammered or boozy fry? I want cheese and crap all over it. Instead, he got Sysco fries tossed in some kind of ill-conceived spice blend (salt, pepper and oregano?) And a little ramekin of cheese sauce that was bad. There was the skin that had already formed on it before he was served, and then there was just the overall taste. The beer flavor had not cooked out at all. Here's how I'd recreate it: Old Dutch nacho cheese, beer, pepper. Done. All of these things separate, but together might be good, but together as one.... not so much.
I ordered the soup and salad combo. The soup of the day was curried butternut squash and I asked for the salad with Fiesta Ranch dressing. Gah! First, the salad dressing did not arrive, so that was another 10 minutes of trying to find a waitress. The soup was still chunky. It hadn't been pureed enough to get rid of the stringy texture of the squash. And then there was a faint curry powder flavor and lots of black pepper. It just did not work. It was pretty inedible and I tried. (and when I sent the uneaten soup back, I received no question and paid for the whole mess.) The salad dressing was abhorrent, too! Imagine fat free sour cream with cumin in it. Way too much pungent, gritty cumin. Also inedible.
Andy was the only one that got a decent meal out of the place and that's probably because she didn't order off the menu. She built her own pizza of black and green olives, roasted garlic on focaccia. That was finally pretty good. Not exactly great, but compared with everything else on the table, I was happy she offered to share with me. The focaccia had a lot of flavor and there was just a little cheese on there to cut the creamy, pungent garlic. It was a briny salt fest on bread, but at least it was palatable.
As we were leaving the overly-enthusiastic DJ was trying to guilt us into staying and playing music bingo (I so would have kicked ASS!) But we could not convince a waitress to serve us any more wine, so we left.
And although I was hungry, I bopped out of there smiling at the girls playing Duck Hunt on a nearby couch. If I was in college, I would totally love this place, even if I could never afford it.

Party Planner

(me after a successful performance at the piano bar)

I am nothing, if not resourceful. I've recently been given the work responsibility of planning an upcoming event. One of our VP's is coming in to town and I was supposed to organize a happy hour where we could all meet, the VP could assure us that this is going to be a prosperous year and then we have munchies and drinks.

Originally, we had another event planned for Elsie's, but then that didn't work out. I suggested the hotel we use for our usual quarterly meetings, but was told that was too stuffy. Finally I came upone the perfect idea. The best bar in America, Nye's!! But no. Just because that jackass at Esquire pointed out that a door man was tragically shot last year, my people are afraid to go. It's not like people go into Nye's packin heat on a regular basis! How ignorant?! Besides, I was told Happy Hour. Not MEETING. We're so ending up at a bland Sheraton. The NorthStar and Martini Blu have been mentioned. A friggin' Lifetime Fitness BAR? Please kill me.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

On Top of Spaghetti

Retraction: Benett's is NOT GOOD they are HALF ASSED
If you're a long-time reader you might remember my very first rant which really boils down to there is nothing worse than going to a restaurant and being on the business end of a half assed experience. You're out money, time, it does the exact opposite of what I'm usually trying to acheive - relaxation and enjoyment of food. I don't like it! I'm not a competitive person by nature, but seriously, either you're in it to win it or you are in my way. When I first wrote up Bennett's by my new place I thought they were off to a great start. Apparently things are only good when the owner is on site and on the floor.
Last Thursday Matt and I went in there (after I said, nah, not the Muddy Pig, something different.) I had a particularly horrendous day at the office and I knew that I was soon in for a whole week of atrocities in cube life. I wanted and escape and I wanted a good drinks. Since it was five billion below zero I didn't want to get a martini and ordered... I'm embarrassed to say, but I guess I have to. I ordered a Pepperwood Pinot Noir! Gahg. It was... well, it wasn't Thunderbird, but closer to that than Camus. The waitress took so long to come and get our drink order that we almost left. And there she is, in all her Naugahyde glory, looking like 70 and probably pushing 40. Everything took forever and nothing was good (except the Ranch dressing, but how is that worth going to a restaurant for??) My "wild" rice soup was white rice and heavy cream with a couple of chunks of chicken tossed it. The salad was ice burg with canned black olives and chewy, mealy tomatoes. Matt got a $12 plate of spaghetti and meatballs. I would bet that plate cost them a dollar fiddy to put together. Spaghetti, jarred sauce and meatballs made solely out of HAMBURGER!! Would it kill you to throw a little sausage in there? A piece of garlic bread or something FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!!!
This was serious. I was working myself up into a full blown hissy. I needed booze, but do you think that she ever came back? No! As Matt said, "Well, she's pretty swamped." (cue crickets) We were the only diners in the area. If they continue at this rate, I see that becoming a trend.
Thank God I have Heartland to fall back on.

At Home in the Heartland

Vile, evil winter BLAH!!! These below zero temperatures are just ridiculous! I know I came from the wilds of Northern Minnesota and should be accustomed to such blustery winter days, but that's why I left! Actually, I left because I'd turned 18 and that's just what you do when you grow up in small town America if you don't feel like gettin' knocked up or living in a trailer. But that's another story.
After my last week's heartache of not only losing out on my favorite happy hour, but also being denied entry for one more farewell wine guzzle because of all the other cheap foodie saps like me that crowded the bar the second word got out that Auriga would be closing. Okay, after all of that, I realized that I've been living in St. Paul for months now and still had not gotten over to Heartland. I coordinated with Andy and Eric that we'd get in there on Saturday night. We'd go early and go to the wine bar so that we could a.) afford it and b.) find a place to sit. We were successful.
However, it was fa-fa-fa-reeezzing!! I think it was about 25 below on Saturday night. And I had a terrible cold chasing after one of the worst week's at work in recent memory. Any normal person would have snuggled up in their wubbies while watching the Food Network and taking out an entire bottle of wine on their own. That's what I probably should have done, but not me. Oh, no. Logic is for the weak! Andy picked me up in her thoughtfully pre-heated car and drove us over to the unassuming intersection of Fairview and St. Claire. We stumbled in to the wrong entrance because it was the first we came up to and oh, also, yeah, little cold. Once we were pointed in the right direction, we found ourselves in one of the tiniest bars this side of NYC. Teeny!! Luckily, my early bird special plan worked and there was room for the three of us at the bar.
Eric arrived just after the bartender thoughtfully plunked down an amuse before us. I didn't hear what all it was, "What? What was that? Burnt liver mousse?"
"No bird liver mousse."
"Oh.... Are you going to eat it?"
"Heavens no!" Andy fears the burnt bird mousse, but before Eric even said hello, he'd tossed the whole confection down his throat like a Jell-O shot. It was wonderful and just enough to tease my pallid palette awake. The mousse was deliciously light and pared with what I think was a poached cherry and a crispy little crostini. Delicious!!
After a couple of minutes of jabbering and a quick gift exchange (Eric brought me back saffron, Turkish paprika and a pickled paprika that is amazing from a trip overseas) we ordered wine. (Love Eric!) We began our evening with a bottle of the Sierra Cantabria Rioja, which is just my favorite rioja. It's a fantastic wine for a night of freezing your ass off. It's plumy and woody tasting. It went really well with the Wisconsin bison brat that we ordered next, served with really spicy course ground mustard and a house made sauerkraut that I loved. It didn't have any of the sour taste or the funky/fungy smell associated with sauerkraut. It was actually really sweet and super salty. I love salty! Salty makes the wine go fast.
The second bottle we ordered was at the suggestion of the lovely and gorgeous bartender. Love bartender. Unfortunately, the cork was one of those new plastic kinds that didn't have the name of the wine or vineyard on it. I do remember it was a Garnache and I really, really hope that somewhere Andy saved the name, because this wine was incredible. When I was little my mom would would make jam. Wild raspberry was always my favorite. As the jam cooks down there's a fluffy little layer of pink foam that rises to the top that must be skimmed off. That was always my favorite part. It was lush with concentrated brushy fruit and syrupy sweet. That's what this wine tasted like.
I was really chugging now and after the adorable little cheese plate, the food starts to get a little fuzzy. I did love absolutely everything and I mean that in a sincere way, not in a I-drank-too-much-without-taking-proper-notes-because-omigod-is-this-fun!!! I should have written these things down because, of course, the menu changes daily and I'm probably not ever gonna get any of this stuff again. The cheese was okay, but it had been sitting at room temperature a bit too long. The flavors had gone beyond developing and into plasticky. They were such little teeny hunks (it was only $8, to be fair.)
Next we ordered the Yorkshire pork belly and the pork rilletes served in a little cornbread bowl and surrounded by a pheasant reduction and garnished with leek oil. Care to venture a guess on which was my favorite? It really surprised me, too because I do love me some pork belly. It was the pheasant reduction. It just couldn't be beat. I was sopping up the rest of the juice with the delightful little house made rye roll and about to dunk my head in the bowl and start slurping when the adorable and man-i-wish-andy-flirted-with-him-more bartender asked if I was finished. This guy's good. Not only did he pick out for us a wine that gave me all the good feelings contained in a suntanned five-year girl's blond locks, but he also rescued my dignity. Barely. I won't get into the debauchery that came after we left Heartland, but it wasn't pretty. Already, I can't wait to get back there. Everything about this dining experience was like home; from the wood walls to the locally sourced food to nearly making an ass out of myself.